The Wolverine review

Review James Hunt 17 Jul 2013 - 05:35

Hugh Jackman stars as The Wolverine. And this time, things have worked out better...

The first Wolverine standalone movie was not good. We know it, you know it, even Hugh Jackman knows it. With Marvel Studios running circles around their licensee cousins, the task of putting Wolverine back on track wasn't just about rescuing earnings potential – it was about saving face in an industry that Fox itself reinvented with the first X-Men adaptation.

Based, rather more loosely than anyone involved has yet admitted, on the classic Chris Claremont/Frank Miller Wolverine miniseries, The Wolverine sees the character summoned to Japan by an old friend, whereupon he becomes embroiled in a war of succession within the Yashida clan. Director James Mangold has melded this plot with some musings on the character's near-immortality to create a comic book movie that (for the most part) avoids the standard genre tropes and feels more like a Gaijin-in-Japan action movie than yet another superhero blockbuster. If you're feeling fatigued by tights, suits and capes, this may be the antidote.

The basic outline is this. Tasked with protecting the inheritor of a business empire, Mariko Yashida (Tao Okamoto), from various factions who would see her controlled, Wolverine finds himself crossing Japan, fighting mobsters and ninjas everywhere from central Tokyo to pre-war villages, even (in one of the more ludicrous sequences) atop a bullet train. The setting is one of the film's strengths, delivering interesting locations and unfamiliar cultural texture, while the largely Japanese cast is populated by well-rounded characters and striking actors – most notably Rila Fukushima who, as Yukio, is a sidekick worthy of the screen time she receives.

Mangold's version of Wolverine is probably the most interesting yet. At the outset, we find Logan in a dark place following the (admittedly distant) events of X-Men: The Last Stand. Lost for direction, he's feeling the effects of powers that keep him alive while those around him die. The trailed appearances by an ethereal Jean Grey anchor the film in the X-Men universe, but in the context of the film she could be any past love. This is a movie largely intended to stand alone, and which – in keeping with the mutant metaphor – focuses on super-powers as a curse as much as a blessing.

Without giving anything away, even though one of the subplot choices the film makes is familiar, The Wolverine gets it right. Whatever happens, Logan is still Wolverine, and the film consistently remembers that to its credit. By varying degrees, this is actually a story about who he is, not what he can do. It's dark but not humourless, pensive but not slow, and keeps a tight focus on Logan's arc as he finds new things to live for.

At least, that's what it's like until the third act, when the film suddenly delivers a dumber-than-rocks collage of supervillain monologue and CGI fight scenes, abandoning what worked best in the previous hours – street level brawls and intimate character moments - in favour of something more conventionally 'blockbuster'. It shaves at least a star off the rating and hugely over-complicates an otherwise straightforward story, opening up plot holes you could squeeze a comically-oversized samurai robot through.

In truth, there are one or two problems before that. There are parts where the script gets clunky, there are sequences where the camera work renders the action tough to decipher, and the script is fastidious in making sure all of the subtext is rendered into text just in case you're concerned you might have to engage your brain. As a fun game, you might also want to count the times someone makes a Japanese cultural reference and then immediately explains it in layman's terms (with bonus points for spotting the one they do twice).

But for the most part this is a good movie. It gets Wolverine in a way that the last film completely failed to. It has something to say about the character, and it says it. Because of that, we can mostly forgive the bizarre tone shift of the final reel, or the tics that weaken its presentation.

It hasn't got the swagger of the Iron Man films or the densely layered story of the Dark Knight movies, but it's at least getting part of the way towards being that good. Wolverine's versatility as a character is one of his biggest strengths, and in The Wolverine, we finally have an on-screen demonstration of what that actually means. For all its loftier ambitions, the best gift The Wolverine gives is a simple one: that you'll leave the cinema wanting to see more of the character. And that's, straight away, a vast improvement over the last standalone Wolverine outing...

Please, if you can, buy our charity horror stories ebook, Den Of Eek!, raising money for Geeks Vs Cancer. Details here.


Disqus - noscript

Yeah but what I'm still waiting to see... Is Wolverine actually tough? He is supposed to be hard as nails but we have only every really seen him getting beaten up and shouting a lot.

I still wish we got to see Aronofsky and McQuarrie's version of the character. I was really excited when they came on board. Hopefully Aronofsky will return to the Superhero genre, maybe he could bring Miller's run on Daredevil to the big screen.

This is a great review. The consensus so far seems to be that it starts solid, but kind of ends on a whimper, except for these two UK reviewers that just flat out hated the movie.

One thing I've seen omitted from this review and others is the matter of a post-credits scene- is there one? If so, was it simply not all that notable enough to contribute to the review?

Well, I was literally afraid that this would be (sorry for the vocabulary, but...) absolute sh**. In fact, I started thinking the opposite, but as more material came out I got more and more afraid of the complete movie. It's nice to know that they didn't completely screw up.

I'm going to give it a try, after all ^^

And yet this film gets the same star rating as X-Men Origins: Wolverine ;-)

I may well be alone in this, but I have been underwhelmed by every single X-Men film to date. They've never got it right and the studio are just mashing films together now just to keep hold of the rights.

Any movie with a third act you don`t enjoy can`t by definition be a good movie. This is nonsense.

Except of course when Stryker kidnapped those kids in x2.

While it was way too late for Stallone, and I don't mean frank, to be Wolverine, they still could have gotten Dolph Lundgren for Omega Red. I'm one of the few that like lots of characters. That's not what the last stand or origins got wrong: it was the plots. Fox screwed up the weapon x program, which was set up nicely in x2 by Brian Cox, who brainwashed Geena Davis, I mean Matt Damon, I mean Wolverine! Ooooh, new pizza place! Talk to you guys later

Will the Blue-Ray feature the voices just slightly out of sync and just generally poorly dubbed like classic samurai films?

There is a post credits scene but I'm not telling what it is

Magic Chopsticks Twice.

Er, not in the movies I watched.

There is a post credits scene. It's most certainly noteworthy. I don't wish to spoil it so that's all i'll say, and I guess that is the reviewers intention as well.

"At least, that's what it's like until the third act, when the film suddenly delivers a dumber-than-rocks collage of supervillain monologue and CGI fight scenes"

Sorry... for a minute there I thought I'd wandered into a review of Man of Steel!

In all honesty, I thought the trailer made this movie look TERRIBLE. A cheesy clunky script, WAY too many ninjas, and a giant samurai robot? But going by this review, perhaps I'll give it a go after all...

Holy Flurking Schnit! A positive review? I was fearing the worst, to be honest. Any more positive reviews and it MAY warrant a waaaaaaaaaay over-expensive trip to Cineworld...

Can't wait for this film. Didn't mind X-Men Origins: Wolverine and I love the X-Men series! I'm looking forward to Days of Future Past a bit more though because X-Men: First Class was my favourite!

Loved that scene, I still remember it fondly :) Time for a re-watch of the 3 X Men films. X-Men, X2 and First Class

Aronofsky insisted on ASS to ASS for his Wolverine movie

HA I told my cousin that and he thought it was hilarious. But I didn't cite my references, sorry. It's a doggy dog world. Death Row records still around? Boy I'm out of touch

Better than the first but not by a huge leap. Remember the game Double Dragon? Thugs kidnap your girlfriend after punching you both and you have to get her back? Yeah, that's pretty much The Wolverine. It has two end of level bosses in the film and Poison Ivy for some reason. I nodded off for a couple of minutes and woke up thinking I was watching Batman & Robin. Not content with a resemblance to Uma Thurman, they even dressed her in a skin tight green number. Wolverine wears blue and has a side kick with red hair, just to reinforce the Double Dragon thing. While the film was just the right side of three stars, I figured maybe I'm just too old for it, but the teen near me kept tapping his foot out of boredom. It was really f***ing annoying.

Nearly everyone left before the credits scene. It's only a minute wait for it too. Rather than getting excited by the small lead into Future Past I just thought 'you're pushing your luck now guys.' 15 years and only a few X Men films worth talking about.

Is it worth seeing in 3D? My Favourite cinema shows 3D viewings early in the evening, and 2D late night.
Prefer late night viewings :)

So, 3D make any difference?

Last Stand made money than any other X-Men film. Ratner is alright, for all the flack he gets. Red Dragon is probably his best. One reviewer noted Hopkins seemed to parody his own performance and the chair opposite his cell became a pantomime prop. Well that's down to the editor. Ratner does seem to shoot for TV though. Apart from the bridge scene, X3 looked like a direct to dvd movie. Everything is in focus, widescreen. Like the first three Coen brothers films.

It did seem like The Wolverine lacked supporting characters. Big casts can work just fine in the right hands.

I saw Bourne with a mate. When he turned to me and said [plot is like]'the long kiss goodnight', I puckered up and leaned in. 11 years on and it still cracks him up.

Guess you had to be there.

Glad I wasn't, but yeah ensembles are doable, and Avengers proved it. Cousin o mine ain't too excited about more avengers joining up. With joss Whedon at the helm?! The more the merrier! Haven't watched red dragon in quite some time, but hopefully I'll watch the wolverine next week. And a deleted scene from the last stand (xmen, not Schwarzenegger): iceman freezes the skinny/fat mutant and, well, think icepick. It would have been "cool" at the movies. Ice to see you!

The 3d adds little, you wont miss anything by going 2d

It was a good film but didn't feel right, something was missing. I see this movie as a filler to set-up for the next X-Men movie.

It's a nice touch that it unfolds like a mystery thriller, with you never being quite sure what is going on or who to trust.

But then it looks like someone bottled out of making it too dense or complex and the resolution and any potential twists become obvious from the start. It feels like it is setting up red herrings that turn out not to be red herrings at all, which means that with hindsight some of the things people do in the movie don't make sense.

It's a shame because with a more daring conclusion this could have been one of the best superhero - certainly X-Men - movies made.

Sponsored Links